In a new report, men are 26% more likely to be overweight and develop type 2 diabetes than women – with estimates showing that 9.6% of men have type 1 or type 2 diabetes.1
So what is diabetes and what steps can you take to lower your risk of developing the condition?
What is diabetes?
There are a number of different types of diabetes, but the two main forms are type 1 and type 2.2 Both types are a serious condition where blood glucose (or sugar) levels are too high, but the most common form is type 2, accounting for around 90% of all diabetes cases.3
Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body doesn’t use the hormone insulin as well as it should, this is called insulin resistance. It means that fats and sugar cannot be transported out of the blood into the cells of the body as efficiently as normal. If sugar can't get into your cells, it builds up in the blood causing sugar levels to rise, called hyperglycaemia.
What is hyperglycaemia?
Occasional mild episodes of hyperglycaemia aren’t usually a cause for concern, but it can be dangerous if blood sugar levels become very high or stay high for long periods.4 Regularly having high blood sugar levels for long periods of time can result in permanent damage to parts of the body, such as the eyes, nerves, kidneys and blood vessels.3
High blood sugar can be caused by eating too much refined and processed sugar in your diet.5
What causes type 2 diabetes?
Type 2 diabetes slowly develops in adulthood; up to 80% of cases could be prevented through healthy diet and regular exercise, so you do have some control over it.2 But there are some factors that can't be helped – for example, your age or having a close relative with a history of diabetes.
The good news is that by making small, simple lifestyle changes, you can help reduce the risk:
- Revamp your diet – Ensure you are eating a healthy and varied diet, reducing the amount of calories if you are overweight. Replace saturated fats (e.g. cream, cheese and butter) with healthier unsaturated fats (e.g. olive oil, avocados and nuts), and limit your sugar intake which can contribute to weight gain.4 Why not add a few more wholegrains to your diet such as brown rice and whole-wheat, along with more fruit and vegetables too!
- Get moving more with a buddy – The more active you are the more sensitive your muscles are to the uptake of glucose which means your pancreas gets a rest and doesn’t have to produce as much insulin. 6 We all know we need to move more, but to stay motivated and have more fun why not find a buddy and challenge each other. On days when you don’t feel like exercising, your work-out buddy might give you the lift you need to get you moving!
- Keep your cholesterol in check – High cholesterol is linked to diabetes as it reduces the ‘good’ levels of cholesterol and raises the ‘bad’ levels.7 To lower your cholesterol, try eating an extra portion of oily fish per week, increase your intake of fruit and vegetables, and reduce your intake of alcohol7 – a combination of these will help to contribute to a healthier cholesterol level. To find out more about how to keep your cholesterol levels healthy, visit nhs.uk/live-well/healthy-body/lower-your-cholesterol/.
Try and maintain a healthy body weight and lifestyle by monitoring all the above; set yourself realistic goals that fit in with how you live your life – this will help you stay on track. Small changes can really make a huge difference over time!
For more information on diabetes, visit nhs.uk/conditions/diabetes/.
To find out more about Sovereign Health Care and how our cash plans can help support your health and wellbeing, visit sovereignhealthcare.co.uk/good-all-round.